On the afternoon of August 7, I drove up to Clermont, GA in response to my mom’s request for assistance with my grandmother in hospice at Friendship Nursing Center. I met mom at her house as she woke from a nap after staying up the previous night with grandma. I then drove mom to the nursing center seven miles away on the opposite side of Walker Mountain.
We entered the facility, meeting grandma’s nurse halfway down the hall to hear that grandma had passed away five minutes before. We entered her room and my mom collapsed next to the bed in tears. It had been years since I’d seen mom overcome by such emotion. My mom has served as a nursing home and hospice chaplain for nearly twenty years, before that serving as a hospital ward nurse. As my mom had cared for her mom, it was now my turn to provide care and comfort.
We took out our phones and began contacting the rest of the family. Mom contacted both Strickland’s Funeral Home and the hospice physician to pronounce the time of death. After contacting my two sisters with the hard news, I facilitated the back-and-forth phone calls with mom’s brother and sister regarding scheduling of the wake and funeral. After two hours of phone calls and clearing grandma’s belongings from the room, the gentlemen from the funeral home arrived. Grandma had suffered multiple hip and leg fractures over the past ten years and had been in decline with dementia over the past four years. I knew the day of her passing was imminent and was more blessing than tragedy. My grieving had already begun over recent months and I could now reflect upon her inspiring stories and the steadfast faith she shared over her entire 92 years of life.
On August 15, Monica and I drove up to Clermont for visitation at the funeral home. This Americanized version of the Irish wake, held only in afternoon hours, provided my sisters and cousins with their opportunity for closure. Grandma was lain in a white casket in a long-sleeve, farm-girl dress with a bible propped beside her left hand. In both sitting rooms, my sisters had placed photos and memorabilia from her long life. Most fascinating was the black-and-white photo taken in her mid-adolescence (late 1930s) where she proudly showed off a fish she had caught.
I have difficulty imagining the vastly different world of my grandmother’s early years in comparison with the world of the late 20th, early 21st century. Though my views on social norms and religion differ from those of my grandma, through her generosity towards the less fortunate, she has exerted the greatest influence on me of any of my grandparents. My grandmother’s faith was based upon an ever-present God who loves unconditionally. Through my grandmother’s example, I discern the unfailing grace experienced directly from the Divine Spirit as opposed to the petty politics of human religion.